Egyptian tradition of painting Hajj pilgrims’ homes lives on

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Updated 11 August 2019

Egyptian tradition of painting Hajj pilgrims’ homes lives on

  • The pilgrimage season was one of the most important occasions on a calligrapher’s calendar with Hajj pilgrims hiring them to write and draw on their homes
  • Each artist uses their own unique style to portray modes of transport such as camels, planes and ships, holy sites like the Grand Mosque in Makkah, and passages from the Qur’an

CAIRO: An Egyptian tradition of painting the homes of Hajj pilgrims with religious verses and images continues to withstand the passage of time.

The pilgrimage season sees calligraphers and painters busy sketching the journeys of worshippers on the front walls of houses in villages, towns and cities throughout the country.

Each artist uses their own unique style to portray modes of transport such as camels, planes and ships, holy sites like the Grand Mosque in Makkah, and passages from the Qur’an.

Ahmed Sayed Ahmed, 30, is one of the most well-known calligraphers in the Ghouria area of central Cairo, where he has worked for more than 15 years.

He told Arab News that the decoration process began with painting walls white to create a clean canvas for the artwork which usually included the name, gender and age of the person performing the pilgrimage.

Gamal Al-Arabi, another calligrapher and painter from Cairo, said that the tradition was still popular among Egyptian Muslims. Raised in Abnoub in Assiut governorate, he studied Arabic calligraphy for two years in Cairo and later traveled to Saudi Arabia where he worked as a calligrapher and painter.

He said that the pilgrimage season was one of the most important occasions on a calligrapher’s calendar with Hajj pilgrims hiring them to write and draw on their homes.

“In some desert villages they draw the camel, for example, and pilgrims around the Kaaba or during prayer. Recently, the majority of drawings involve ships and planes, but paintings of the Kaaba and the sacred house of God are fundamental,” Al-Arabi added.

He pointed out that his favorite fonts for Islamic inscriptions were diwan and rekea because they were easy to read.


Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

Updated 52 min 28 sec ago

Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

  • Law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting

TUNIS: Political outsider Kais Saied was leading Tunisia’s election with just over a quarter of votes counted, the election commission said Monday, in the country’s second free presidential vote since the Arab Spring.
Saied was on 19 percent, leading imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 14.9 percent, and ahead of the candidate from the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party Abdelfattah Mourou (13.1 percent).
The announcement came after both Saied and Karoui’s camp claimed to have won through to the second round, in the highly divisive polls.
Local papers splashed photos across their front pages of law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting.
“An unexpected verdict,” ran a headline in La Presse.
Le Temps titled its editorial “The Slap,” while the Arabic language Echourouk newspaper highlighted a “political earthquake” and a “tsunami” in the Maghreb.
The initial signs point toward a major upset for Tunisia’s political establishment, in place since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
It could also usher in a period of immense uncertainty for the fledgling north African democracy, the sole success story of the Arab Spring revolts.
Tunisia’s electoral commission (ISIE) reported low turnout at 45 percent, down from 64 percent in the country’s first democratic polls in 2014.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed called on the liberal and centrist camps to band together for legislative elections set for October 6, voicing concern that low participation was “bad for the democratic transition.”
Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living, could well turn out to be the election’s biggest loser.
The election comes against a backdrop of serious social and economic crises.
Karoui, a 56-year-old media magnate, has been behind bars since August 23 on charges of money laundering and Tunisia’s judiciary has refused his release three times.
A controversial businessman, labelled a “populist” by critics, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.
His apparent rival is political neophyte Saied.
The highly conservative constitutionalist, known to Tunisians for his televised political commentary since the 2011 revolt, has shunned political parties and mass rallies. Instead, he has opted to go door-to-door to explain his policies.
He advocates a rigorous overhaul of the constitution and voting system, to decentralize power “so that the will of the people penetrates into central government and puts an end to corruption.”
Often surrounded by young acolytes, he also set forth his social conservatism, defending the death penalty, criminalization of homosexuality and a sexual assault law that punishes unmarried couples who engage in public displays of affection.
“It’s going to be new,” said a baker named Said on Monday, issuing a wry smile.
“We’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, what matters in Tunisia is the parliament.”
The first round was marked by high rates of apathy among young voters, pushing ISIE head to put out an emergency call to them Sunday an hour before polls closed.
On Sunday morning, senior citizen Adil Toumi had asked as he voted in the capital “where are the young people?“
Political scientist Hamza Meddeb told AFP “this is a sign of very deep discontent with the political class that has not met economic and social expectations,“
“Disgust with the political elite seems to have resulted in a vote for outsiders.”
Distrust of the political establishment runs high in Tunisia, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the cost of living has risen by close to a third since 2016.
Extremist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector.
Around 70,000 security forces were mobilized for the polls.
The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.